Hakha Protest Planned over Eviction Threat

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A protest is planned in the Chin State capital Hakha on Wednesday over the state government’s threat to evict people who have built on land slated for a major development project.

Organizers say they have already received permission from the authorities to hold the protest, which will take place in Hakha between 10am and 4pm on July 31. More than 500 people are expected to join.

Pi Za Tlem, a former MP for Thangtlang Township and one of the leaders of the protest, told Khonumthung News that the people facing eviction feel they have no choice but to resist the government’s order to leave.

“They [the government]have repeatedly warned farmers that they have to get off the land. We have already appealed to the state government about this, but they say they have no option,” said Pi Za Tlem, describing the state of the current deadlock over the issue.

According to Pi Za Tlem, the people who have built houses on the land have been living there for nearly 50 years. They used it as rotating farmland, and when they built houses there before, it was never an issue. Now, however, they are facing eviction for failing to get official permission.

However, Soe Htet, the state’s minister of municipal affairs, disputes claims that the farmers had an established presence on the land in the past. He said that the project area—located on a 600-acre parcel of land near a golf course on the Hakha-Thangtlang highway—had only eight houses on it before the project began, and now it has 135.

He claimed that many of those now occupying the project area migrated there when they learned that the state government was preparing to distribute plots of land to local people. Many bought land through brokers and built houses without permission, he said.

“Now the brokers are worried that they will have to return the money. This is why they are leading protests against the government. It is really getting in the way of the government’s ability to do its job,” Soe Htet told Khonumthung News, adding that he would take legal action against the protesters.

But farmers insist that the project area, which was designated as vacant land under the 2012 Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Lands (VFV) Management Law, was taken from them without consultation or compensation, despite being used by them for generations.

“These are inherited lands that have been in our families for many years. They [the government]didn’t discuss the new city project with local farmers. They think this is VFV land, and they just took it without paying compensation,” said Hrang Kil of the Chin Farmers’ Union.

According to the protest organizers, they will demand the resignation of senior government officials, including the state’s chief minister, Salai Lian Lwi, the chairman of the state parliament, Zo Bwe, and Shwe Htee-O, the transportation minister.

This is not the first time the state government has faced controversy over a land-related issue. After the National League for Democracy came to power in 2016, the Chin State government forcibly removed more than 300 houses from the village of Bwarpee in Falam Township’s Seeyin protected forest.

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FACEBOOK: The protest over land slated for use in a development project will also call for the resignation of the state’s chief minister.

TWITTER: #Protesters in the #ChinState capital say they also want the state’s chief minister and other senior officials to resign over the #land dispute. #Burma #Myanmar #VFVLandLaw

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